Brain regions ‘tune’ activity to enable attention

The brain appears to synchronize the activity of different brain regions to make it possible for a person to pay attention or concentrate on a task, scientists at the School of Medicine have learned. Pictured is the study’s first author, graduate student researcher Amy Daitch.

Cooling may prevent trauma-induced epilepsy

In the weeks, months and years after a severe head injury, patients often experience epileptic seizures that are difficult to control. A new study in rats suggests that gently cooling the brain after injury may prevent these seizures.

Teenager moves video icons just by imagination

Photo by David Kilper / WUSTL PhotoResearchers enabled a 14-year-old to play a video game using signals from his brain.Teenage boys and computer games go hand-in-hand. Now, a St. Louis-area teenage boy and a computer game have gone hands-off, thanks to a unique experiment conducted by a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and engineers at Washington University in St. Louis. The boy, a 14-year-old who suffers from epilepsy, is the first teenager to play a two-dimensional video game, Space Invaders, using only the signals from his brain to make movements.

Teenager moves video icons just by imagination

Photo by David Kilper / WUSTL PhotoResearchers have enabled a 14-year-old to play a two-dimensional video game using signals from his brain instead of his hands.Teenage boys and computer games go hand-in-hand. Now, a St. Louis-area teenage boy and a computer game have gone hands-off, thanks to a unique experiment conducted by a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and engineers at Washington University in St. Louis. The boy, a 14-year-old who suffers from epilepsy, is the first teenager to play a two-dimensional video game, Space Invaders, using only the signals from his brain to make movements. More…

Sugar required for healthy brain development

ZebrafishTo learn more about how glucose affects human development, Washington University researchers have developed the first vertebrate model of the role of glucose in embryonic brain development. The model is made up of zebrafish. Their transparent embryos develop similarly to humans, except that they grow outside of the mother’s body, where development can be more easily observed. The model provides the foundation for and insight into the roles of nutrition and genetics in human birth defects.

Research finds sugar required for healthy brain development

ZebrafishTo learn more about how glucose affects human development, Washington University researchers have developed the first vertebrate model of the role of glucose in embryonic brain development. The model is made up of zebrafish. Their transparent embryos develop similarly to humans, except that they grow outside of the mother’s body, where development can be more easily observed. The model provides the foundation for and insight into the roles of nutrition and genetics in human birth defects. The research also may have implications for patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. More…

Better brain imaging helps surgeons avoid damage to language functions

Jeff Ojemann/University of WashingtonImproved imaging of brain’s language areas may replace more invasive pre-surgery mapping techniques, such as the electrocortical stimulation method shown here.Advances in neurosurgery have opened the operating room door for an amazing array of highly invasive forms of brain surgery, but doctors and patients still face an incredibly important decision – whether to operate when life-saving surgery could irrevocably damage a patient’s ability to speak, read or even comprehend a simple conversation. Now, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are developing a painless, non-invasive imaging technique that surgeons here are using to better evaluate brain surgery risks and to more precisely guide operations so that damage to sensitive language areas is avoided. The breakthrough could improve odds of success in an increasingly common surgery in which damaged sections of a patient’s temporal brain lobe are removed in an effort to alleviate epileptic seizures. November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month.

Mouse model may suggest new ways to treat some causes of epilepsy

David GutmannJust as films or plays feature both stars and a supporting cast, in the brain the cells called neurons have “starring roles.” But a team of epilepsy researchers led by David H. Gutmann, M.D., Ph.D., the Donald O. Schnuck Family Professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine, has found that a type of supporting cell in the brain is responsible for some epileptic seizures. Studying mice that develop a genetic disorder called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), which affects about 50,000 Americans and causes debilitating epileptic seizures in half of them, Gutmann’s team found that cells called astrocytes played a critical role in the development of seizures. The researchers found that mice that lack a particular gene developed seizures, and they say that gene, combined with the knowledge that the “supporting” astrocyte cells are responsible for the seizures, provides new targets for treating epilepsy.